Weekly Poem and a Change of Scenery

I am treating this as an exercise separate to NaPoWriMo this year since I am juggling writing projects and teaching. For instance, today I completed the first draft of a poem for a friend’s birthday. Under Lockdown, it can be hard to source birthday presents. I asked her if she would like an audiobook. She went away to think about it and came back with the request for a poem just for her. Her wish is my command!

Likewise, on the teaching front we have been deep diving into form since March. The NaPoWriMo Day 3 prompt introduced the concept of the Personal Universal Deck, which is a really handy tool to get your poetry going. But it takes a long time, especially under Covid timelines. (Well, doesn’t everything take longer?!) We used some session time to work on it as all of us are juggling projects, jobs, and in some cases home schooling kids. Though we seemingly have all the time in the world under Lockdown, time still seems to be in short supply. I drive my husband mad with what he calls my ‘infinite to do list’ that is running through my mind. However, he benefits from that organizational mental gymnastics!

And yet, as of yesterday, our restrictions have loosened somewhat. We can move around our county and the kids are all back doing in-person schooling. My husband will get his first Covid-19 vaccination this Friday. We celebrated these milestones by going for a woodland walk about 8 miles from home. Glenfarne Demesne was carpeted with wood anemones. We stopped to pat the pillows of sphagnum moss on the rocks. The greenery in the woodland was positively psychedelic. A little shower did not deter us from wandering along a 2 kilometre trail and stopping to stare at Lough MacNean. We filled our hungry eyes with a change of scenery.

But to the weekly poem. As opposed to an occasional NaPoWriMo daily offering that I am tossing at the blog as time allows. After playing with our Universal Personal decks in Zoom class last Saturday we took a quotation from a Tom Paulin poem as a jumping off point.

In the meadows of the spirit

I kiss the word

Tom Paulin, The Other Voice
Kiss Each Word

I kiss each word that spells out
the magic in imagination.
I shut my eyes and I am there
in the meadow beside the Shannon Pot,
full of  as yet uncut cowslips,
pyramidal orchids, buttercups.
I am the child running waist deep
in grass and reeds
her yellow hair swishing left and right
in the late afternoon summer sunlight.
ViviLnk

NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 13

Imagine Peace

It has been a busy few days. Most important, we can now move around the county, so we filled a thermos flask and got some bickies to go stare at a lake, pat mossy rocks and bathe in psychodelic woodland green. I have been writing – and teaching. We used the Personal Universal deck idea proposed in NaPoWriMo Day 3. Trickier than one might think and it takes longer if you pay attention to all the codaciles of the rules outlined on Paul E. Nelson’s website. Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt has called me to look to Northern Ireland, which has dogged our headlines now for nearly a fortnight. Not even the Duke of Edinburgh’s death has quelled the disruption in its ‘situation’ as they say locally.

Today’s prompt comes from the Instagram account of Sundress Publications, which posts a writing prompt every day, all year long. This one is short and sweet: write a poem in the form of a news article you wish would come out tomorrow.

NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 13
Imagine

It was quiet in Belfast last night.
The Peace Line stayed serene - no bonfires,
pitched battles, burning buses - no need
for tear gases or water canon.

A few wise women, probably all
Irish mammies, took the tearaway
public school boys, a few mandarins
from many nations, much less all those
recalcitrant husbands, sons, brothers,
tongueing them to " just catch yerselves on!"

It may not have been perfect peace, but
we appreciated the quiet.
Not this, but

Photo by Florian Olivo on Unsplash

THIS

NaPoWriMo2021, Day 8

Awake and wakeful at stupid o’clock there seemed nothing for it but to see if NaPoWriMo had posted the daily prompt. Given that they are based many time zones away from me. They had and today’s prompt borrows from Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology. I have a copy on my poetry shelves so did not need to look online. There is such pleasure in having paper reading matter during this pandemic. Too much screen time. And yet, here I am tapping away while my porridge slow cooks. And not a surprising acquisition for someone who had an academic interest in 19th century American lit and intellectual history.

Today, I’d like to challenge you to read a few of the poems from Spoon River Anthology, and then write your own poem in the form of a monologue delivered by someone who is dead. Not a famous person, necessarily – perhaps a remembered acquaintance from your childhood, like the gentleman who ran the shoeshine stand, or one of your grandmother’s bingo buddies. As with Masters’ poems, the monologue doesn’t have to be a recounting of the person’s whole life, but could be a fictional remembering of some important moment, or statement of purpose or philosophy. Be as dramatic as you like – Masters’ certainly didn’t shy away from high emotion in writing his poems.

napowrimo.net, Day 8, 2021

My poem’s character died in 1972 when I was in high school. We bonded in Drama Club and somehow I feel she would be really pleased to have figured in a poem. Spoon River is a volume of monologues by the dead, which is also a kind of eulogy.

Debbie Harter

I dotted my 'i's with a heart
when signing off yearbook notes with
'Love, Life and Laughter.'
Though life  was not a long gift
I had plenty of love. And the latter.
I was loved most my sixteen years
of small hometown nurture.
I wore my own Cancerian born heart openly,
just like the dot over the 'i 'in Debbie.
Life ended one dark March midnight
when we plowed into a tree.
Yet somehow it felt whole-
my life was complete
with very little sorrow,
a full heart and much laughter

NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 7

…in which we tackle the short, very tautly structured syllabic forms of either the shadorma or the Fib. We have worked on shadorma in my creative writing Zoom workshops and I cannot say that I am terribly enamoured. The Fib, however, has a basis in natural science, not in alternative facts. Though imagination does enter into it. So I chose the second (optional) prompt for today’s flexing of the poetry writing muscles.

Our second syllabic form is much more forthright about its recent origins. Like the shadorma, the Fib is a six-line form. But now, the syllable count is based off the Fibonacci sequence of 1/1/2/3/5/8. You can  link multiple Fibs together into a multi-stanza poem, or even start going backwards after your first six lines, with syllable counts of 8/5/3/2/1/1. Perhaps you remember the Fibonacci sequence from math or science class – or even from nature walks. Lots of things in the natural world hew to the sequence – like pinecones and flower petals. And now your poems can, too.

Napowrimo.net, Day 7, 2021
The Fibonacci (Spring) Sequence in Dowra

One
branch 
unfurls
catkin's fuzz
that defies hail stone
snow flurry, sleet, overnight frost

Unlike nipped tulips that bend
faces down to the ground
stamina
tested
this
Spring

Spring
coils
ready
to slither
like the sly serpent
out, around, following the sun

Happy poetry writing! Despite a think layer of snow on the ground yesterday at dawn, and hail pellets and sleety rain drops, it all melted away by 10am. But the daffodils and tulips have taken a bit of a battering.

Buddha Daffodils
Woodland garden in Spring

NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 6

fate destiny breathing

I seem to be waking earlier than usual, which is allowing for poetry writing in the morning. Which has a knock on effect of allowing some posting time in the day. So I decided to do NaPoWriMo Day 6’s prompt while I am awake and rarin’ to go. (Which dear friends will tell you is not really me. I am usually an object of amusement in the morning.) Here is today’s prompt.

Go to a book you love. Find a short line that strikes you. Make that line the title of your poem. Write a poem inspired by the line. Then, after you’ve finished, change the title completely.

Holly Lyn Walrath, NaPoWriMo.net, Day 6, 2021

As it happens I generally grab a poetry anthology first thing. Today it was Clive James’ The Fire of Joy. Since Walrath reckons really good poems need a killer first line I picked this from my random opening of the book.

I know that I shall meet my fate

W. B. Yeats, An Irish Airman Foresees His Death
Breathing 

With each breath that takes me nearer death
curiosity and courage
carry me through climate both clement
and complex.  On a chart's vertex
you find your fate is awaiting you.
It crouches like the sleeping cat
alert to its moment with one eye
half-open, half-shut. What stranger
will walk in? What global happening
will call and you can answer, "Yes!"
With that affirmative breath you step
to the edge. Fly? Die? Who knows?
But in that moment's embrace you meet
all three Fates. What we spin and weave
is complete. The thread is cut. Fini!
Yet what could be worse than forever
waiting just for the deciding time.
To never arrive.  For each breath
simply to carry you nearer death.
To have failed the moment. Walked passed
the person, the place of destiny.
Know that you shall go and meet fate.
That you and that moment suspended
in time are one, in harmony.
You are history, not just your fate.

I usually publish my weekly poem on a Tuesday these days. Though Sunday may sometimes offer a bonus poem. So this counts as this week’s poem. Though there may be more if I keep waking early.

Featured image is a Photo by Keith Hardy on Unsplash

NaPoWriMo 2021 Day 5

Just when I said I would not be frequently posting during NaPoWriMo 2021, I contradict myself. Partly because I was awake earlier and felt rarin’ for a poetry prompt. Also, one of the examples for today’s prompt is entitled “Pennsylvania.” Since I was reared in that state I felt that I needed to rise to the occasion. Also, the prompt kind of irritated me. I resisted it. And then I riffed …But you may want to refer to Natalie Shapero’s poem “Pennsylvania” to see what I did with it. The inner light referenced in Shapero’s poem was a phrase popular with Quakers, who founded the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. My reference is less oblique.

This prompt challenges you to find a poem, and then write a new poem that has the shape of the original, and in which every line starts with the first letter of the corresponding line in the original poem. If I used Roethke’s poem as my model, for example, the first line would start with “I,” the second line with “W,” and the third line with “A.” And I would try to make all my lines neither super-short nor overlong, but have about ten syllables. I would also have my poem take the form of four, seven-line stanzas. I have found this prompt particularly inspiring when I use a base poem that mixes long and short lines, or stanzas of different lengths. Any poem will do as a jumping-off point, but if you’re having trouble finding one, perhaps you might consider Mary Szybist’s “We Think We Do Not Have Medieval Eyes” or for something shorter, Natalie Shapero’s “Pennsylvania.”

NaPoWriMo.net, Day 5 2021
The State of Utopia

Other children knew church, factories,
coal mines, farms, strip malls and Dairy Queen.

I knew confusion.

I thought God was transcendent, not
confined within buildings and rites.

In school, it was mentioned our state was
William Penn's "Holy Experiment."

There's such a thing?!

There were reams and screeds written
throughout the 19th century -

obsolete schemes for a better world -
best for love and kindness.

Evangelised. Despised.

Anywhere a chancel light glows
within dreams green utopia.

One of the reasons for not posting as often is that even re-worked posts are not eligible for submitting to publications or competitions. One NaPoWriMo poet I follow erases part of the work after a few days. This feels like a lot of admin. But some I will hold back for future reference elsewhere. Such is my rationale in 2021. But then again, I may contradict myself!

The featured image of the Susquehanna River is Photo by USGS on Unsplash.

NaPoWriMo 2021, Day 4

I have been faithfully writing a poem a day this year, even if it is just a haiku or senryu in my bedside journal. For NaPoWriMo 2021 I am not being slavish about posting every single day. For instance, the past three days have been warm and sunny in my part of Ireland. When you live in the country you work with the weather. I despatched nine loads of laundry to line dry, and then launched into some house and garden paint projects to freshen us up. Keeping active and creative is good for our mental health, especially this winter of Lockdown. Changing the hobby creative activity itself can reinvigourate your writing. So that is what I did for the first few days of NaPoWriMo, working away in the sunshine by day and writing last thing at night in my notebook.

I congratulate those poet FBF who have been faithfully posting on their page daily. But this year I have decided to be flexible in terms of daily posts. I have my hands fairly full with managing the Geopark Poetry Map project. Also, I am mindful that I need to pace myself given the toll of Lockdown Fatigue. Last week, I was fortunate to have a Zoom workshop for Cavan Creative types with Miffy Hoad of Mental Health Ireland. I have been working hard on keeping my five pillars of mental health upright this past year: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give. I need to do some work on Take Notice. Which I am doing. Pace, pace, pace. As Cristina Baldwin writes: “Go at the pace of guidance.”

I loved the NaPoWriMo Day 3activity of creating a personal universal deck as a writing tool. I will get round to it this week, but must check my card stock stash first. It strikes me as a really useful tool for prompts that I will pass on to my students.

But now for the Day 4 2021 NaPoWriMo prompt:

Poetry often takes us to strange places – to feelings and actions that are hard to express except through the medium of a poem. To the “liminal,” in other words – a place or sensation that exists at or on both sides of a boundary or threshold, neither one thing or the other, but something betwixt and between.

In honor of the always-becoming nature of poetry, I challenge you today to select a photograph from the perpetually disconcerting @SpaceLiminalBot, and write a poem inspired by one of these odd, in-transition spaces

NaPoWriMo.net, Day 4, 2021
@SpaceLiminalBot
Closed For Renovations

One is never so derelict as to become
transfigured - no project ever too arduous,
or mountain high to climb. We have plans for glory!
From ruin, the decrepit wreckage that is
hollow shell, many storied splintered timber
becomes the body of a dream. Before what is...What
shall transition from a slippery becoming
into solid being? For time, lubricious
quantity that it is, even tenses overlap.
What is past ruin? Where is current plan? Future
can be both perfect and imperfect, the fairy
that grants wishes and mischief. We are, for now,
closed. In need of refreshment and refurbishment
before we open fully to all the glory.

Have a restful and safe Easter holiday weekend.

Will You NaPoWriMo this April?

sunflower

I think this is my fourth or fifth year of writing a poem a day every day in April, which is both National and Global Poetry Writing Month. It may sound daunting, but there is no better way to up your poetry writing game than by writing regularly. With the daily prompts and supporting material from websites like https://www.napowrimo.net/ you can really exercise your poetry writing muscles. I like to think of it as a kind of poetry jocks’ annual event. Which is sort of cognitively dissonant since most poets are the antithesis of jock. But, hey ho!

Tarot afficionados may like Angela T. Carr’s April poetry prompts based on the Rider Waite deck. Here is the link to that: http://www.adreamingskin.com/fools-gold-30-days-tarot-writing-challenge-napowrimo-2021.

Exercising the poetry muscles might just be the kind of training you need to compose and submit a poem that might well put one of Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark on the Poetry Map I am curating. You can find out more about the project on a past blog here: https://sojourningsmith.blog/2021/03/21/happy-unesco-world-poetry-day/.

You can email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com for submission guidelines and support material on the geoheritage of many of the Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark sites.

But back to NaPoWriMo or GloPoWriMo as those of us living outside the USA may style it…There is an early bird prompt to get us warmed up. I did a little yip of delight (and there have not been many of them here lately) when it was revealed that the prompt is based in one of my happy places on this globe. As a family used to visit it regularly from when I was a tween and most trips back to the States have incorporated a visit to the Met and the Brooklyn Museum of Art to see Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party in the Feminist Art Wing.

Finally, because April 1 arrives a few hours earlier for many of our participants than it does for us at Na/GloPoWriMo headquarters, we’re also featuring an early-bird prompt today. Today, we’d like to challenge you to spend a few minutes looking for a piece of art that interests you in the online galleries of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

napowritmo.net

I wandered many galleries but always seem to gravitate to the Impressionist to visit Monet’s Bridge over Waterlilies and to say hello to Vincent Van Gogh’s work. The last visit was with my 15 year old niece who went on to study art at college. She was working on a GCSE project at that time and commented that one of her classmates was doing her project on a Roy Lichtenstein and here she was looking at one in person, not in some book or online. Seeing art in-person really is an entirely different experience.

My own first draft was compelled from early memories of ranging round the Met galleries.

Impressionable

The water lily pond could wash you away!
So massive, taking up all a gallery wall,
dwarfing a twelve year old, who in memory
shuddered at the huge canvas' dimensions, all
majesty and "Look At Me!" - how minute
the ambitions of lesser imaginations.
Let the colour and brushwork engulf you -
one artist's grandeur, an act of diminution.

I preferred the paintings more human scale.
Monet did do flowers very well - sunflowers
in a Japanese vase. Gauguin is alleged
to have said Van Gogh's were much better.
I agree. Even sunflower husks dredged
have more heart beating in every strand of his brush.
I bought a print from the museum shop.
Years on, I went to A'dam on the Magic Bus
to have sunflowers and night stars make my heart stop.

Happy GloPoWriMo/NaPoWriMo!

Lockdown Fatigue

8 of swords

It’s a real thing, a recognised phenomenum. We are so over the restrictions of staying in our 5km zone and here in Ireland we are waiting, waiting and waiting for our vaccination notification. But, even those who have been vaccinated have few places to go; only essential travel – work (which has been mostly at home for a year), medical, pharmacy and grocery. That’s it! I live in a very beautiful place and have a garden. I feel a bit ashamed to make this admission given that I am privileged to have pretty fine technology -phone, internet, devices – and natural beauty. But we want to reach out and actually touch the far flung loved ones. We keep hoping to see one another and the dates recede and recede. Maybe summer. Maybe in late summer, outdoors, we will be able to give a masked pandemic hug.

Also, I am fortunate in having Zoom students where we can air our experiences and compare how things are being handled in Canada as opposed to Ireland. It is thanks to one of those students that I have taken up the challenge to build a poem around some quotes from our conversation last Saturday. The second poem also reflects a telephone conversation with another friend. She cares for her 94 year old mother who has pronounced that this pandemic is worse than World War 2. Sure, they faced death. But living didn’t threaten your life. “We could go to dances. If we were down in the dumps we went next door and had a cuppa tea with a neighbour and had a moan.” Peggy fell in love and married 75 years ago at the end of the war. She has a point. The Guardian newspaper writes articles with headlines such as “How the Whole World Lost Its Libido.”

We compare anecdotes from England and the USA , where the vaccine roll out has been gaining traction, and feel like we are living in corsets. They hope to have all the kids back into in-person schooling by 12th April, but…the numbers of infection dictate everything. The week after Mother’s Day weekend and St. Patrick’s Day saw a jump in reported cases. Easter weekend, four days of no where to go, will be the final temptation.

Safe to say that the phrase ‘stir crazy’ has taken on layers and layers of texture. It’s more a cri de cœur.

Thanks to Susan for stating this challenge.

We are so over Covid

"We are so over Covid". "But it's not over us!"
Life is slow as treacle in a January
freeze. Framed in a five kilometre square. It's messed
up. In my head it's a convention of fairies'
wishes washed up ashore after a hurricane.
How is it that days inch by at warp speed? Because
I'm taking my reality cues, hemmed by routine.
But everything is always strange. It's collaged.
We have taken scissors to what used to pass as
society. Some days I feel as if I hold
a beating heart, lifted up, out, by blood soaked hands
during transplant surgery. I want to be told
"It's time. It's done. Close her up. Let her live again."
However we repair, or process, will we transcend
what is lost? We count the cost, regretting offence.
But have we built a world with more walls and fences?

Telephone conversations that crossed oceans, seas or just down the road a piece inspired the next poem.

Truly

Truly, I am glad that my sister can drive out
to a mountain cabin in another state now.
But here, we dream more modestly.
My friend, connected by telephone, and I
we dream of when we might venture forth, ranging
into the county, say.  Or maybe even ten kilometres wide.
That would take us both to separate forest parks, larger sky.
My friend's 94-year old mother, now fully vaccinated, perked up
after twelve weeks (more!) feeling incarcerated.
"I can go out in two weeks!" Said triumphantly.
"But where?" countered her carer.
The fleshpots of Tesco beckon, her prospect
of living the high life now.
In England, my friend reports they can sedately
cluster in groups of six outdoors
in the fresh air from this week. Where
we remain locked up and downcast within
our prescribed five kilometre zone.
Even a trip to the dentist is welcome excuse
to travel passed scenery not seen for months past.

So I am feeling a little bit green, in all its varying shades
from this Emerald Isle, from nausea to envy,
and dream of Blue Ridge hills or the ocean waves that break
upon a shimmering sandy strand , 
but not viewed in video clip.

Copyright ©Bee Smith, 2021, All rights reserved.

The featured image comes from Biddy Tarot. https://www.biddytarot.com.

It’s the 8 of swords and that pretty much sums it up!

Hone those Poetry Writing Skills

We have a week left for March to roar out and then it will be April. If it is April, then it is NaPoWriMo – time to write a poem a day for a month. NaPoWriMo is a great poetry apprenticeship. It challenges you to get out of your writing comfort zone by offering you new poetry forms and introducing you to all kinds of poets, both historic and contemporary. It is like getting a poetry gym membership for free for a month.

Given that I will be calling out for contributions to the Geopark Poetry Map (see Sunday’s post here (https://sojourningsmith.blog/2021/03/21/happy-unesco-world-poetry-day/), NaPoWriMo is a good way to get in training to hone that poem on one of Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark’s sites. To get more information about submission guidelines and general Geopark information email GeoparkPoetryMap@gmail.com.

Calf Hut Dolmen, Cavan Burren Park, Ireland

The project is being funded by Geological Survey Ireland’s Geoheritage Fund and we will be looking for poems with a decided geoheritage theme of the particular site.This is how they define geoheritage.

Geoheritage encompasses features of geology that are intrinsically important sites or culturally important sites offering information or insights into the evolution of the Earth; or into the history of science, or that can be used for research, teaching, or reference.’

Geological Survey of Ireland

If it is Tuesday, it is Weekly Poem Day. This is not a new one, but it is one that was inspired by the Cavan Burren’s Cairn Dolmen. Basically, the earliest tombs were piles of stones – cairns. Ireland has many cairns on mountain or hilltops. Cuilcagh, the mountain that straddles the international border running through Marble Arch Caves UNESCO Global Geopark, has one. A later era decided to innovate and began building the megaliths, like dolmens, those slabs of rock that were the earliest mauseleums. In Cavan Burren Park, they built a dolmen on an existing cairn. Waste not seems to have been ingrained in the ancestors. Another dolmen became an improvised cow shed in the 19th century; it is now known as the Calf Hut Dolmen.

The Cairn Dolmen in in the forest and is a magical place. I personally call it the Fairy Cairn, which will not impress the scientific minded, but poets must be allowed their fey turn of imagination. The poem was first published in The sHop in 2007.

Cairn


A cairn is just a pile of stones 
like so many abandoned cabins
littering the landscape.
One is a grave, a mound over bones.
One is a grave, the skeleton of a home.

It’s all a Close the door!
It’s all an Open the door!
It’s all a haul it all down.
It’s all a going into the dark.
It’s all a blow the rooftop off.

It’s all an Open the door!
It’s all let some light come in.
Open the door!
Open the door!
Let me in! Let me in!

Copyright © Bee Smith, 2007 By permission of the author.